Tuesday, 20 October 2009

Australia - Brisbane to the Whitsundays

Over the last week or so we have covered the same distance as we managed over the previous four, covering around a third of the east coast from Bryon Bay to the Whitsundays.

After the pleasant malaise that was Byron bay, we embarked upon a series of tours and coach journeys up the coast, taking in Brisbane, Fraser Island and the Whitsunday islands. As we spent so much time in Bryon, we had to cram this into a relatively short space of time, leading to a hectic few days. I’m pleased to report that having finished the tours we have a bit of down time, letting me write this by the pool before we head off again tomorrow. Difficult business this travelling lark...


- Brisbane is typical city stuff, nice enough with some interesting buildings, art galleries etc but nothing much to write home about. It does have an artificial beach, being inland and Aussies being unable to operate without their daily dose of sand. An artificial beach in Leicester would be quite something; however spending the past four weeks on and off Bondi et al removed much of the novelty value.

Fraser Island

- Along with the Whitsundays, Fraser Island seems to be “the” travellers thing to do on the east coast. Fraser is the world’s largest sand island and is inhabited by more dingos than people. The key selling point about Fraser is your transport, which takes the form of “self drive” 4*4’s. Practically, this translates to you being put in a big land rover with 8 other people, food and camping gear and driving yourself around the island for 3 days. No guide, no driver, just a tank of fuel, a shed load of pasta, 9 backpackers and a map.
The island itself is covered in forest, freshwater lakes and is all very pretty, if not quite as stunning as we’d been led to believe. That said, see the picture of the resident shipwreck above and driving a 4*4 at 80kph down a beach, while dodging landing aircraft is not to be missed. Great fun.


- A quick 13 hour night bus up the coast gets you from Fraser to a place called Airlie beach, from where you visit the Whitsunday islands. The Whitsundays are a group of 74 islands dotted around the southern reaches of the Great Barrier Reef. You get to the islands themselves by jumping on board a sailing ship with 20 other backpackers and sailing around for 3 days.
During this time your days are spent swimming, snorkelling and generally sailing around and your nights are spent on deck with a drink or two - beer if you are lucky, “goon” if not, more on this below.
Highlights of the trip were visiting Whitehaven beach, which is apparently one of the 3 best beaches on the planet and snorkelling on the reef. You can’t really go snorkelling on the Great Barrier Reef and not have it as a highlight..

That pretty much brings me up to date. We have another week or so in Oz during which we are taking our Open Water diving course, before finishing our Australian travels in Cairns. From Cairns we fly to Tokyo and from Tokyo home.
One month to go..


- A Dingo ate my baby – Dingos are wild dogs and roam freely around Frasier. One night, having got lost in the sand dunes we were circled by a dingo on the beach. This was a bit tense (dingos have been known to take toddlers) but passed without incident. In contrast two welsh chaps we were travelling with had a similar experience and legged it down the beach. No wonder they are only a principality..

- Fraser killed my camera – As I said Fraser is a giant sand island. As such sand gets everywhere, including zoom lenses on cameras. This has resulted in the death of my trusty Canon. After camera number one was stolen in Bolivia this leaves me facing up to buying camera number three. Not ideal.

- Sleeping arrangements – Over the past week I have shared a three man tent with a German couple and a double bed with Dan. Note that these are not confessions, but nonetheless also fall into the “Not Ideal” category.

- Goon – Goon is budget boxed “wine”, but with a twist. It s inexplicably cheap, that is until you read the box, which informs you that it contains fish and eggs. Additionally it steadfastly refuses to refer to itself as “wine”, presumably failing to meet the applicable trading standards definition. Nice.

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